Thursday 18 July 2019

Getting to know the Irish fashion designers making waves with their coastal-inspired work

The compelling landscapes and vistas around our coast have inspired Irish designers to pay homage to its natural wonder and beauty, writes Bairbre Power

‘Sea’ tunic with frilled sides in 100pc silk twill, €150
‘Sea’ tunic with frilled sides in 100pc silk twill, €150
‘Sadhbh’ hand-knit honeycomb Aran sweater with hand-crocheted wave-stitch sleeves made from wool hand-spun in Donegal, €1,295, Colin Burke, from CREATE at Brown Thomas
‘Róisín Dubh’ toile silk twill kimono, €880, Éadach, CREATE at Brown Thomas
‘The Hidden Treasure’ silk twill scarf in ‘Day’ and ‘Night’ colourway, £180, Éadach, exclusive to Royal Portrush Golf Club.
‘Retro Poolbeg’ scarf in 100pc modal, €65, KDK, available from
Susannagh Grogan’s ‘Blue Sea’ tunic, €295,
Susannagh Grogan’s newest collection of scarves displayed by Susannagh and her fellow members of the women’s team at the Dalkey Rowing Club. (Pictured front to back) Jenny Dilley with small ‘Blue Ikat’ scarf, €90; Susannagh with XL ‘Sketchbook Passion’ scarf, €220; Emma McGee with small neck square ‘Sketchbook Passion’ scarf, €90, all available at Brown Thomas, Arnotts and
Chloe Murtagh has been captivated by the underwater world and mermaids since childhood. Her ‘Divine Feminine’ activewear collection features (from left): Mesh strap marble print bra, €80, and bicycle shorts with marble panel, €65; marble panel bra, €82, and marble panel leggings, €65; all-over marble print bra, €85, and all-over marble print bicycle shorts, €70. The leggings in 100pc elastane nylon are super high-waisted and suitable for maternity wear. Orders to:, 083 870 5005.
Bernie Murphy’s pleated ‘Narin’ skirt in Donegal luxury herringbone tweed in 80pc merino, 10pc cashmere and 10pc silk, €475 from Fully lined and manufactured in Donegal, the skirt is available in heather, navy and orange. Bernie Murphy and Chloe Murtagh are among the 10 designers in the ‘Fashion & Textiles Creative Cluster’ who took part in the DEFINE showcase in the former Convoy Woollen Mills.

For most of us, a walk on a beach, skimming stones, or watching the white caps of crashing waves from the car on a blustery day is soothing salve for the soul.

For others, it is so much more and feeds their creativity. A growing number of Irish designers return time and time again to the coast for inspiration.

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Keira and Dairine Kennedy, the talented sisters behind the KDK lifestyle brand, grew up in Co Cork. Now  based in Dublin with their families, the siblings continue to return to their Cork roots and their very popular ‘Sea’ silk twill tunic (pictured above) is based on a photograph Keira took in Oysterhaven, a sea inlet immediately to the east of Kinsale Harbour. The addition of a rippling frill down the sides adds a wave effect, which is very flattering to a tunic silhouette. They also wrap up memories of popular coastal places with digital prints on scarves in modal and silk/modal mix. One of my favourites is their ‘Poolbeg Chimneys’, an iconic landmark dear to the heart of so many Dubliners.

Colin Burke is one of a number of young emerging designers fortunate enough to live on the Wild Atlantic Way. Based in Galway, he photographed his beautiful knit for us on a sandy beach near Spiddal in Connemara, and he has been hugely influenced by his grandmother, who lived overlooking the sea in Co Sligo.

‘Róisín Dubh’ toile silk twill kimono, €880, Éadach, CREATE at Brown Thomas
‘Róisín Dubh’ toile silk twill kimono, €880, Éadach, CREATE at Brown Thomas

Like Colin, Sara O’Neill is part of the designer line-up at the new CREATE programme that opened in Brown Thomas last week and where Sara has introduced her ‘Róisín Dubh’ silk twill kimono (pictured right). Sara grew up on the coast road in Portrush and, after spending 15 years in Belfast attending art college, styling and illustrating, she moved back home when fate and romance merged. Big-wave surfer Al Mennie found Sara’s business card frozen in a puddle on the beach! They got in contact soon after that and, five years later, they are engaged to be married. Al kindly photographed Sara for us, back on the beach with their dog, Blyton.

Completing our coastal journey, scarf and tunic designer Susannagh Grogan is based in Killiney — and she can often be found literally on the water, as she skiff rows from Coliemore Harbour. Susannagh took up skiffing seven years ago and says it helps her to clear her head, that she never fails to come back with more ideas. Members of her women’s team kindly rowed out into Dalkey Sound for us to showcase Susannagh’s latest collection of ‘Sketchbook Passion’ silk scarves, available in a number of sizes.

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